The Story of Valentina Allen: Half the Heart, but Twice the Fight

On February 15, 2013 Danielle and Ryan Allen gave birth to their second child, Valentina. However, this beautiful baby girl was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) 20 weeks into Danielle’s pregnancy, but Valentina was quite the fighter.

Throughout the pregnancy, Danielle and Ryan knew they had to make a very difficult decision. They visited several hospitals and received many recommendations from different doctors. Most did not give Valentina much of a chance at all. However, one hospital would match Valentina’s fight. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia gave her the fighting chance that the parents needed to hear.

The birth of Valentina, which was a question mark in itself, was a success. When examining her condition, the doctors realized not only was she born with half a heart, but also what was on the left should have been on the right and vice versa. This made every surgery even more difficult.

Valentina went through countless surgeries before she did not have any more fight left in her. On May 12, 2015, at just two years old, Valentina passed. Many looked at this as a battle that was lost. However, those same people did not realize that the battle was just beginning.

Danielle and Ryan could have sat back and grieved, which would have been completely understandable, but they did not do that. They were inspired by their daughter’s two-year fight and they continue till this day to raise money and fight for other’s who are in the same shoes that Valentina once was.

Their story and fight has inspired others to join along. The battle started off small with small donations, and wristbands and t-shirts being sold in Valentina’s name. However, it continued to grow. In the two years since her passing, Danielle and Ryan have raised nearly $200,000 through various fundraisers. Most recently, the Angels of the Bay Foundation donated over $40,000 in Valentina’s name to CHOP. The family also collects toys during the holiday season to bring to the hospital so the kids who are spending their days there have something to bring them joy. The ultimate goal is to have a cardiology examining room at CHOP to be named in Valentina’s honor.

The fight is far from over and people are still getting on board. I encourage you to help continue this fight and hopefully a cure can be found. There are various treatments for patients who are diagnosed with HLHS, but a cure is yet to be found. Some do live with this disease, but there are complications that they face their whole lives. They have to deal with taking medicine day after day, check-ups too often, and even additional surgery may be required. Some patients are lucky enough to receive heart transplants, but even then the fight does not stop. These patients have to take medicines for the rest of their lives to prevent the body from rejecting the new heart.

It is time that HLHS becomes more known so we can stop others from suffering down the road. The people fighting this battle have been tremendous so far, but it is far from over. The support system continues to grow and it has now reached college sports. The St. Joseph’s Brooklyn Women’s Basketball team will be playing in Valentina’s honor for their first six home games. These games will be played on November 15th, 21st, 28th, and 30th, and December 2nd and 5th. During these games the team will be collecting donations with all the proceeds going towards CHOP, while collecting toys as well for the kids who spend their holidays at the Hospital. On December 5th they will hold a ceremony in honor of Valentina. I urge you to come support these girls as they play for a growing cause. Do not let the battle stop now. Help us in making sure this continues to grow. The fight is far from over, but the light is in sight.

HLHS is a disease that is overlooked too often and awareness needs to increase. All I ask is that you spread the word about HLHS. I am not expecting anyone to donate or take further action, but anything helps. Visit the donation page if you wish to help the cause. You can also help the cause by coming out and supporting the St. Joseph’s College Women’s Basketball Team. As mentioned, they will be collecting donations via 50/50 raffle and donation jars, while collecting toys as well. You can learn more about Valentina and the growing community who has been helping support the cause and raise awareness by visiting the Facebook page that was started by her parents, Ryan and Danielle. Once again, just help spread the word by sharing this article, retweeting the tweet about it on New York Groove’s Twitter page, or just talking about HLHS in your community. Let’s continue this fight together, so one day we can finally put an end to HLHS.

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MLB Power Rankings- Pre-Hot Stove: Where do the Yankees and Mets stand?

Unfortunately, the MLB season has come to a conclusion. But….. Hot Stove is just starting! Before Major trades and free agent signings go down, let’s see where the teams currently shake up based on their strengths and weaknesses heading into the 2018 season.

30. Detroit Tigers

Strengths: ….. Michael Fulmer?

Weaknesses: Pretty much everything. Will be a long and painful rebuild.

Offseason Priorities: Trading Ian Kinsler and Jose Iglesias.

29. Chicago White Sox

Strengths: Young talent, loaded farm system, financial resources.

Weaknesses: Major-League ready talent, urge to win now.

Offseason Priorities: Stay the course of the rebuild, explore trades for Jose Abreu

28. Miami Marlins

Strengths: Trade chips, Best outfield in baseball.

Weaknesses: Pitching staff, farm system, fanbase.

Offseason Priorities: Get the best possible return for Giancarlo Stanton, acquire young pitchers, explore a Christian Yelich deal.

27. San Diego Padres

Strengths: Rebuild is slowly but surely ending, loaded farm system, trade chips, infield talent.

Weaknesses: Pitching staff, still in rebuild, not a big free agent attraction.

Offseason Priorities: Acquire a young arm for Brad Hand, trade Corey Spangenberg, add a veteran starter, stay the course.

26. Cincinnati Reds

Strengths: Some young arms, power bats, trade chips.

Weaknesses: Farm system doesn’t match up with other rebuilding teams, strong division, fanbase, financial resources.

Offseason Priorities: Trade Raisiel Iglesias and don’t sign Zack Cozart. Trust the process.

25. Kansas City Royals

Strengths: Fanbase, winning culture, subpar division.

Weaknesses: Farm system, half the team isn’t under contract, financial resources.

Offseason Priorities: Get one of Hosmer, Cain or Moose back, sign Eduardo Nunez and a veteran starter, go for it.

24. New York Mets

Strengths: 1-2 in the rotation, solid lineup, fanbase, financial resources.

Weaknesses: Health, back of the rotation, bullpen.

Offseason Priorities: Get a bat, a starter, and two relievers. *They’ll be much higher than this if they do these things*

23. Philadelphia Phillies

Strengths: Strong second half, farm system, young hitters at big league level, financial resources, fanbase.

Weaknesses: Big veteran bat, bullpen, veteran starters.

Offseason Priorities: Spend some money and sign some big name veterans.

22. Oakland Athletics 

Strengths: Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, young starters, willingness to start competing again.

Weaknesses: Pitching staff, center fielder, same division as Houston.

Offseason Priorities: Find an outfielder who is a good contact hitter/division, upgrade the bullpen.

21. Texas Rangers

Strengths: Powerful lineup 1-9, financial resources, fanbase.

Weaknesses: Pitching staff.

Offseason Priorities: Resign Andrew Cashner, pursue another starter, sign Addison Reed.

20. Atlanta Braves

Strengths: Farm system, Freedie Freeman, young talent ready to impact 2018, financial resources.

Weaknesses: Bullpen, veteran starter, third basemen.

Offseason Priorities: Pursue Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, sign Jake McGee, stay the course with the young talent.

19. Tampa Bay Rays

Strengths: Outfield, power, back end of bullpen, young starters.

Weaknesses: Financial resources, fanbase, middle infield, strong division.

Offseason Priorities: Keep Kevin Kiermaier, explore trades for Chris Archer, Corey Dickerson and Evan Longoria.

18. Baltimore Orioles 

Strengths: Powerful lineup 1-9, ballpark, winning culture, star power.

Weaknesses: Window closing, strong division, starting rotation.

Offseason Priorities: Keep Manny Machado, Trade Zach Britton, sign Tyler Chatwood.

17. Pittsburgh Pirates

Strengths: Young, talented team, ability to develop pitching, farm system.

Weaknesses: Financial resources, desire to win, strong division.

Offseason Priorities: Sign Zack Cozart, shock the world.

16. San Francisco Giants

Strengths: Winning culture, recent success, veteran leadership, fanbase, financial resources.

Weaknesses: No power, weak farm, health issues, strong division.

Offseason Priorities: Giancarlo Stanton or J.D. Martinez, bank on health.

15. Toronto Blue Jays

Strengths: Fanbase, financial resources, top of rotation, big bats.

Weaknesses: Leadoff hitter, health, bullpen, strong division.

Offseason Priorities: Get a couple bats, improve the bullpen, bank on health.

14. Seattle Mariners

Strengths: Star power, home run threats, 1-2 punch in rotation, financial resources.

Weaknesses: Overall depth, playoff drought, health, back end of rotation, farm system.

Offseason Priorities: Outfielder, middle reliever, 4-5 starter.

13. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Strengths: Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Cam Bedrosian, Blake Parker, Parker Bridwell, financial resources.

Weaknesses: Depth of roster, corner infield, middle of the rotation.

Offseason Priorities: Construct a roster that is not solely built around a handful of players, third base, first base, starter.

12. Minnesota Twins

Strengths: Young position players, farm system, weak division, solid rotation.

Weaknesses: Ace, bullpen depth.

Offseason Priorities: Sign either Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish, re-sign Brandon Kintzler.

11. St. Louis Cardinals 

Strengths: Fanbase, financial resources, young pitching, lineup depth.

Weaknesses: Star Power, pitching staff depth.

Offseason Priorities: Giancarlo Stanton or J.D. Martinez.

10. Colorado Rockies

Strengths: Star Power, fanbase, farm system.

Weaknesses: Impact players not under contract, consistent starting pitching (Coors).

Offseason Priorities: Retain Greg Holland and Jonathan Lucroy.

9. Milwaukee Brewers

Strengths: Loaded farm system, young talent at major league level, closer, depth, fanbase, empty payroll.

Weaknesses: Star Power, Ace, middle-relief depth.

Offseason Priorities: Trade for Chris Archer, sign Jake Arrieta, fill out bullpen.

8. Arizona Diamondbacks 

Strengths: Star Power, rotation, middle relief.

Weaknesses: Strong division, farm system, financial resources, closer.

Offseason Priorites: Try and retain J.D. Martinez, if not, sign an outfielder… get a reliever.

7. Boston Red Sox

Strengths: Closer, young talent at major league level, ace, fabase, financial resources.

Weaknesses: Lack of power, middle relief, back end of rotation, strong division.

Offseason Priorities: Get a power bat, fill out the bullpen, sign a 4-5 starter, extend Mooke Betts.

6. Chicago Cubs

Strengths: Star Power, deep lineup, young pitching, middle relief, influx of young position players, financial resources, fanbase.

Weaknesses: Rotation/Closer is a free agent.

Offseason Priorities: Sign Alex Cobb, retain Wade Davis, trade Kyle Schwarber.

5. Cleveland Indians 

Strengths: Switch hitters, deep lineup, ace, bullpen, manager.

Weaknesses: Corner Outfield, first base, bullpen depth.

Offseason Priorities: Re-sign Carlos Santana, trade Jason Kipnis and/or Danny Salazar.

4. Washington Nationals 

Strengths: Deep lineup, star power, great rotation, financial resources.

Weaknesses: The Harper-saga, inability to win in the playoffs, weak bullpen.

Offseason Priorities: Piece together a bullpen and hope you show up in the playoffs.

3. New York Yankees

Strengths: Star Power, ace, power, deep bullpen, farm system, young talent at major league level, financial resources, fanbase.

Weaknesses: Consistency in bullpen, health concerns, back end of rotation, inexperienced manager.

Offseason Priorities: Find a manager, sign Shohei Ohtani, re-sign C.C. Sabathia, find a taker for Ellsbury.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

Strengths: Fanbase, financial resources, ace, deep lineup, closer. young talent, farm system.

Weaknesses: Health.

Offseason priorities: Re-sign Brandon Morrow, sign Mike Minor.

1. Houston Astros

Strengths: Best lineup in baseball, 1-2 punch in rotation, roster depth, young talent.

Weaknesses: Back end of the bullpen.

Offseason Priorities: Get a big reliever.

The 7 Biggest Priorities the Yankees should have this Winter

Despite the incredibly successful season the Yankees are coming off of, there are still some major holes to fill on the roster. Let’s take a look at the seven biggest priorities the Yankees should have this offseason…

1. Find a Manager

We all know about the firing of Joe Girardi that occurred a few weeks back. But we can’t keep dwelling on the past… and whether or not Brian Cashman should have had a plan in place to replace him. Now, there are no teams with managing vacancies, and technically, the Yankees could sit back, relax, and interview everyone they know. But in my opinion, the Yankees need to have a sense of urgency, so they can go about the rest of their business in simply putting a coaching staff and ballclub together. The five candidates who we know have been interviewed were Aaron Boone, Eric Wedge, Chris Woodward, Rob Thomson, and Hensley Muelens. To some, this list may be alarming because only Wedge has experience managing, and he did not do so well in his prior jobs. But when you look at Dave Roberts and A.J. Hinch, the two managers who managed in the World Series, neither had prior coaching experience before assuming the manager role of a big market team. This is the way baseball is going. Fanrag Sports Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees were impressed by Boone and Muelens. They both donned pinstripes, cater to analytics, and stress the importance of communication. The importance of finding a manger is clearly and important, and my guy is…

Hensley Muelens.

Why? He covers all three phases the Yankees are seeking (communication, baseball experience, analytics). On top of that, he has coaching in the big leagues with big a big market team (San Francisco) and he has a close relationship with Yankees star shortstop Didi Gregorius. He impressed the Yankees with his interview, and his track record impresses me.

2. Sign Shohei Ohtani

To put it simply, Ohtani is a 23 year old phenom who has been called “the Japanese Babe Ruth“. He has pitched to an ERA of 2.8 in Japan, and in his last 525 at bats, hit over .300 with 30 homers. He can only make rookie money ($3.5M) and if he was a regular free agent, he would be making upwards of $200M. He blends perfectly with the Yankees youth movement and offers New York a ton of roster flexibility. If he is indeed posted, signing him is a must.

3. Re-sign C.C. Sabathia

You can never have enough starting pitching or leadership. C.C. is a mentor to the young players and had his best season since 2012. He has reinvented himself with his offspeed pitches, and will not command more than a 1 or 2 year deal at around $10M. He has publicly stated he wants to be back, and the Yankees would not have been in Game 7 of the ALCS without him.

4. Open up an infield spot

With Tyler Wade, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, and Thairo Estrada all on the 40 man roster and coming fast, a trade of Starlin Castro or Ronald Torreyes has to be explored. Didi Gregorius is going nowhere, Chase Headley will not block anyone, and Greg Bird is the Yankees First Basemen. Todd Frazier will go elsewhere in the offseason, so that opens up one spot, but with four big time young players coming, clearing a spot is crucial.

5. Chief, anyone?

To briefly sum it up, Jacoby Ellsbury has no place on this team and if the Yankees can find a taker of his services, don’t hesitate.

6. Upgrade Backup Catcher

Austin Romine simply isn’t good. He ranked in the bottom of the league in all offensive categories, and was sub-par at best on defense. Alex Avila and Miguel Montero are out there, and their lefty bats and defensive skills would help enormously as Gary Sanchez can’t catch everyday. Their leadership could help Sanchez in the blocking department, and could make up for some of his bat on a Sanchez day off.

7. Explore a Didi Gregorius extension

Didi proved last year why he is worthy of being the Yankees shortstop for years to come. He has an arbitration case coming up, and we know the Yankees aren’t the best at handling those (Dellin Betances). By extending Didi, the Yankees would not have to worry about arbitration cases, could ensure Didi he is their guy, and keep him away from free agency. He would likely be valued at around $15-17M a year. The bottom line is that there is no one on the Yankees who is more worthy of a raise than Didi, and extending him now will eliminate further possible disputes and unhappiness. Do it, Cash!

Yankees “Team Awards” Voted on by Fans

As award season has come to a close, I thought it was appropriate to create my own kind of awards based on the Yankees. I created 9 different polls ranging from best player at a certain position, to a favorite moment, and more. The winners were voted on by fans on Twitter, so I’ll just be adding a description to why they may have been voted for that specific poll. Note all polls had 4 possible choices, all except the best defensive player.

Best Offensive Player: Aaron Judge                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Surprise, surprise! With 68% of the vote, Judge wins in a landslide and as well he should have. He slashed .284/.422/.627 and had 52 home runs and 114 RBIs. He was also ranked 3rd in the AL in Offensive WAR according to Baseball Reference. He was well on his way to a Sliver Slugger award for RF, a Rookie of the Year award, and a finalist for AL MVP.                                                                                                                                                                      Runner-up: Didi Gregorius (22%)

Best Defensive Player: Brett Gardner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This one doesn’t really surprise me either. Gardy had another phenomenal year on defense have a perfect fielding percentage (1.000) that led the AL, had 17 Defensive Runs Saved, and 12 Assists that was 2nd in the AL for Left Fielders. His arm might not be the greatest but he makes up for it with great technique and intelligence. He wins this with 45% of the vote.                                                                                                                                                Runner-up: Didi Gregorius (43%)

Best Reliever: Chad Green                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Green started the year in Double-A as the Yanks were trying to get him and SP Jordan Montgomery some innings before they were called up to try-out for the final spot in their rotation. Green got his chances to start, but it didn’t seem to fit him and the Yanks opted to keep Montgomery in that role instead. But boy did that work out. Green finished the year 5-0 with an ERA of 1.83, had a .739 WHIP, and a stupendous 13.4 strikeouts per 9 innings. Almost no one saw this coming, and he thrived under the role of putting out the “fire”. This earned him 48% of the vote.                                                                                Runner-up: David Robertson (33%)

Best Single-game Performance: Masahiro Tanaka‘s 15 K’s vs Blue Jays                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Might have gotten an upset here. This moment beat out Aaron Judge’s 4-hit game that included his 495 ft. bomb by 5% of the vote. But this moment is well deserving as he broke his own record for the most K’s he’s thrown in a single game and did it in just 7 innings of work. This was his warm-up before the playoffs and he proved to the team and the fans that he was ready to pitch big-time games in the postseason. This was the moment where fans thought after a rough 1st half that he was back to do some damage.                    Runner-up: Aaron Judge (32%)

Favorite Player to Hate: Tyler Clippard                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 With almost every team, there’s that one guy that is a complete detriment to the team and has a say in the undoing of a game. He went 2-8 with the Yanks, pitched to a 4.77 ERA, and had 5 blown saves. The most frustrating part was that he was kept in the set-up mans role for quite a while and even if he had a sizable lead to work with, you couldn’t trust him to get 3 outs. Another reason for some of this “hate” is that he eventually landed with the Astros who went on to win the World Series and yet he had no part in getting that ring. I don’t think anyone actually hates anyone, but boy did Clippard make it hard not to.                                                                                                                                   Runner-up: Chris Carter (35%)

Favorite Personality(ties): Didi Gregorius                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Now we switch over to a lighter and more fun category, favorite personality. On the poll I put in parentheses “Tweets” next to Didi. He showed his fun side with delightful post-game tweets with emojis describing a certain player or even that occurred in that game. If something was especially unique about a game, fans would literally wait for his tweet to come out and see what hilarious thing he had to say about it. Another thing about his tweets was that he was humble, even if he was the player of the game he would mention just his teammates’ efforts in the win instead of boasting about what he did. Besides the tweets fan just loved his free-spirit and his ability to make others around him smile. This earned him 46% of the vote in this poll.                                                          Runner-up: Todd Frazier, the creator of the thumbs down movement (31%)

Best Move Made During the Season: Trade that got David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier from the White Sox.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This choice won with flying colors, getting 81% of the vote. This move seemed a but unexpected when it occurred, especially since it was known that they were more in the market for a starting pitcher and getting multiple veterans was one of the last things fans thought they’d be getting for multiple prospects (and Tyler Clippard). But this trade proved to work out nicely, as both Robertson and Kahnle provided great depth in the bullpen all the way through the playoffs and Frazier brought in a new energy to the team which was fun to watch. All had something to do with the team’s success after they were acquired.                                                                                                                                                       Runner-up: DFA’ing Tyler Clippard and Chris Carter (10%)

Favorite Regular-season Moment: Coming back down 9-1 vs. Orioles                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ahh yes, this in fact was the best moment out of the regular-season. Down 9-1 and 11-4 against the Orioles, the Yanks clawed back to tie the game with home runs from Aaron Judge, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Starlin Castro. A 3-run homer in the 9th by Matt Holliday completed the comeback and got the stadium rocking that night. This game showed how relentless this team was and was a precursor to things to come in the future. This received 51% of the vote.                                                                                                                         Runner-up: Judge breaks Rookie Home Run Record (24%)

And Finally, Favorite Postseason Moment: Didi Gregorius’ 3-run homer in the Wild Card Game                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             There were a bunch of awesome moments that occurred during the playoffs this year for the Yanks including Brett Gardner’s 12-pitch At-bat in Game 5 of the ALDS that ended with a single that brought along 2 insurance runs, knocking out Corey Kluber twice even after his dominance over them beforehand, and their ALCS Game 4 comeback in the late innings against the Astros. Not to mention Greg Bird‘s solo homer that was the only run in a elimination game against the Indians. But Didi’s 3-run homer in the Wild Card game was obviously the most important since if it didn’t happen neither do the others! Luis Severino gave up 3 runs in the 1st inning right off the bat and in an elimination game, everybody felt the game might’ve been over already. But the Yanks came through, starting off with a walk and a single before Didi came up to hit. Then bang! In one swing he tied the game, made all of the Yankee fan-base be as ecstatic as we’ve ever been, and brought back hope for the team to win the game. And they eventually did and went on to last through until Game 7 of the ALCS. This got 43% of the vote.                                                                                                                                                                                     Runner-up: ALCS Game 4 Comeback (34%)

Shaping up the Yankees recent trades

Over the course of the last three days, the Yankees have made three trades that netted four minor league pitchers.

While none of the arms the Yankees acquired are game-changers, they are prospects who helped free room to protect the Yankees top minor league talent. The Rule 5 draft is approaching fast, and the deadline to set 40 man rosters was tonight at 8 PM. So, if the Yankees did not clear spots for notable prospects such as Gleyber Torres, Thairo Estrada, Albert Abreu, and Domingo Acevedo, they would have been eligible to be drafted by any other club.

You may be worried that the Yankees gave up impact players in order to free up roster room for these players, but that is the exact opposite of what they did. The players they traded in these three deals were pitchers Nick Rumbelow (recovering from Tommy John surgery), Caleb Smith (7.00 ERA), Ronald Herrera, and first basemen Garrett Cooper. So in essence, the Yankees sacrificed players with no place on the club, in exchange for room for prospects who should impact the big league club for the next decade. Good job, Cash.

One last important factor involved in these trades was the $250,000 they acquired in International Free Agency money. This money will tie the Texas Rangers with the most money to offer impending Free Agent Star Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani, 23, has been called “Japan’s Babe Ruth” and is expected to be eligible to be signed for the maximum of $3.5M by an MLB Team this offseason. He can both pitch and hit, and would be an estimated $200M player if he were a normal free agent.

While these trades seem minor, they really were moves that will allow the upcoming Baby Bombers spots on the team in the near future. We all saw how young players can impact winning last year, and there is no shortage of talent coming.

The future is bright, Yankee fans… The future is bright.

MLB Free Agent Catchers Predicted Landing Spots

This is one real weak free agent catcher class. There may be only three guys in this group who wind up being the starting catcher for the team they sign with. The rest of them will hope to be back ups, but some may just receive an invite to spring training.

1. Jonathan Lucroy: Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-years/$30M

2017 Stats: 6 HR, 40 RBI, .265/.345/.371, 20/75 CS, 0.6 WAR

Jonathan Lucroy had an extremely disappointing year after arguably the best season of his career and an All-Star Game appearance in 2016. He was traded at the deadline by the Rangers to the Rockies, and the change of scenery helped his cause. It was not the “Coors” effect as his power numbers were still down. However, he increased his OPS from .635 to .865. Defensively, he was horrible and he never really has been very good back there. In a weak class he is still the top catcher. He should receive 3-years as many teams are in need of help behind the dish.

Other Destinations: Rockies, Athletics, Rangers, White Sox

2. Welington Castillo: Colorado Rockies, 2-years/$18M

2017 Stats: 20 HR, 53 RBI, .282/.323/.490, 24/49 CS, 2.1 WAR

Welington Castillo was extremely underrated last year as he may have been a top-10 overall catcher in baseball last year. So, why isn’t he number 1? It was the best year he has had in his 8-year career and it is not very close. Defensively, he was one of the best in baseball as he led the league in runners caught stealing percentage. The Rockies lose Lucroy, but they’ll go out and sign Castillo, as they hope he can give the same production as he did in 2017.

Other Destinations: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Athletics, Rangers, White Sox

3. Alex Avila: Oakland Athletics, 2-years/$18M

2017 Stats: 14 HR, 49 RBI, .264/.387/.447, 17/55 CS, 2.7 WAR

Does Alex Avila deserve the same amount of money as Castillo? Definitely, not. Will he receive the same or close to it? Yes. A very thin class and multiple teams who need starting catchers means a nice payday for Avila. The Athletics are a team who can afford to overpay for a position they desperately need. Avila had a solid season offensively, but he will need to improve defensively if he is going to live up to his contract.

Other Destinations: Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rangers, White Sox

4. Chris Iannetta: Texas Rangers, 2-years/$14M

2017 Stats: 17 HR, 43 RBI, .254/.354/.511, 8/33 CS, 1.8 WAR

Chris Iannetta is not very good defensively, but he has enough pop in his bat to warrant himself a decent contract. As mentioned, the Rangers traded Lucroy at the deadline last season, but either way he was most likely gone. They are very thin at the position and Iannetta actually has a chance to become their starting catcher. He can keep that position if he improves defensively a bit and continues to drive the ball out of the park.

Other Destinations: Diamondbacks, Athletics, White Sox, Cubs, Tigers

5. Nick Hundley: Chicago White Sox, 2-years/$12M

2017 Stats: 9 HR, 35 RBI, .244/.272/.418, 15/51 CS, 0.5 WAR

Nick Hundley is another player who has a chance to start if he is signed to the right team, and the White Sox are one of those teams. The Sox are very young and do not have a true starting catcher at the moment. They may want to bring in a veteran catcher to help with their young staff, even if that means overpaying for a player a bit. Hundley has some pop in his bat as well.

Other Destinations: Giants, Padres, Rockies, Athletics, Tigers

6. Rene Rivera: New York Mets, 2-years/$8M

2017 Stats: 10 HR, 35 RBI, .252/.305/.431, 12/33 CS, 0.1 WAR

This most sought out true backup catcher this off-season may be Rene Rivera. He had a serviceable year at the dish last year and is one of the better defensive catchers in the league. The Mets’ pitching staff has trouble holding guys in and they will look to bring back Rivera to be their go to defensive man behind the plate.

Other Destinations: Athletics, Cubs, Giants, Blue Jays, Tigers

7. A.J. Ellis: Chicago Cubs, 1-year/$4M

2017 Stats: 6 HR, 14 RBI, .210/.298/.371, 5/15 CS, 0.4 WAR

A.J. Ellis has been one of the more consistent back up catchers in the league throughout his 10-year career. The Cubs already have their starting catcher in Willson Contreras, but they need a back up since Avila will most likely not be back. Ellis will come very cheap and he will serve as a solid defensive back up, who will call a good game.

Other Destinations: Mets, Marlins, Nationals, Giants, Blue Jays, Tigers, White Sox

8. Jose Lobaton: San Francisco Giants, 1-year/$3M

2017 Stats: 4 HR, 11 RBI, .170/.248/.277, 8/41 CS, -1.0 WAR

Jose Lobaton was just downright bad last year. There is only one reason why Lobaton makes this list. He is a switch-hitter. The Giants need someone to spell Buster Posey every now and then. Lobaton can fit into their lineup nicely in any game since he can hit from both sides of the plate. Lobaton has had some serviceable years in the past and the Giants will get him relatively cheap. They will hope he can turn back the clock a bit and give them a decent year.

Other Destinations: Nationals, Tigers, Blue Jays, Rangers, Athletics

9. Carlos Ruiz: Toronto Blue Jays, 1-year/$3M

2017 Stats: 3 HR, 11 RBI, .216/.313/.352, 7/30 CS, 0.5 WAR

CHOOOOCH! Carlos Ruiz may have had the worst year of his career last season, but he will still get a deal with a team to be their back up. He is definitely on the decline in his career, but he will bring a valuable veteran presence to any team he plays for. The Blue Jays do not really have a back up catcher and need someone who can give Martin a rest every now and then. Ruiz will fit nicely in Toronto and I would not be surprised to see him with the Blue Jays come 2018.

Other Destinations: White Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Cubs, Rangers, Mariners, Phillies

10. Derek Norris: Detroit Tigers, 1-year/$2M

2017 Stats: 9 HR, 24 RBI, .201/.258/.380, 8/41 CS, 0.0 WAR

Derek Norris‘ 2017 season was cut short due to a suspension in which he was accused of domestic violence. He would be much higher on this list if it was not for that incident as he had better numbers than most of the other players on this list in only 53 games. I’m sure some team will take a chance on him since he will come very cheap and he does have the chance to be productive.

Other Destinations: Athletics, Mets, Blue Jays, Giants, Cubs, Nationals

Do not be fooled, the Mets are not signing Otani

It was reported Tuesday night that the Mets were considering a pursuit of Japanese two-way phenom, Shohei Otani. Otani has dominated the JPPL in his last two seasons as a pitcher and hitter. On top of that, Otani is only 23-years old and may not even have reached his ceiling yet.

In his last two seasons Otani has combined to hit 30 homers, drove in 98 runs, and slashed .327/.410/.564 in 169 games. A little more than one full MLB season and doing so at 22-23 years old is pretty damn impressive. As mentioned, he also pitches. Those stats over the past two years are 13-6, 2.53 ERA and 203 strikeouts in 165.1 innings pitched. Both numbers are very impressive alone, but when you combine them together in one player, it is unheard of.

Otani would be a great fit for any team, so it is no surprise that Met fans would be drooling over hearing that the front office is considering pursuing this type of talent. Met fans, let’s be real, do we really think Sandy Alderson is going to pull this off? Otani is expected to sign a minor league contract due to the new posting rules. However, a team can use their signing pool money as a signing bonus and the Mets only have $105,000. That amount is very low compared to what the other teams pursuing Otani have.

Sandy Alderson mentioned that baseball is an entertainment business and Otani would definitely help in that aspect. Otani would bring a big Asian crowd to the stadium, as did many Asian-born players have done in the past. However, Alderson said today, “I think the only downside is creating a false set of expectations among fans that have to be tempered. This guy can go to any one of 30 teams.” I think that answers the question in itself. Alderson is just doing his due diligence and the Mets have a far, far shot at signing Shohei Otani.